How I overcame my fear of public speaking

Good morning Devansh,

Like most people, who are not born speakers, I was “deathly” afraid of speaking in front of an audience. Just thinking about speaking in front of unknown people made my knees go weak, and my mouth went dry….. Well, you can imagine the rest!

A few years back, if you had given me the option between speaking in front of 10+ people and doing the work/assignment of a person I hated , I would have chosen the latter without thinking twice.

So, today I want to share how I overcome my fear of public speaking and share a beautiful article related to that.

I started by writing notes before my speech or presentation and taking those notes with me. Now, this was not an ideal case but over time(a few weeks), I stopped reading out from my note and started just taking a glance at them. What this did for me was that I was able to push myself to speak by thinking that I can always fall back on my notes and my speeches became quite structured for the audience. One of the important things, you should focus on is to write for the ear, as mentioned in the article :

Write your speech out in full beforehand, to reduce the risk of any big flubs. Be sure that you are writing for the ear, with conversational words, phrases and sentence structures. People often write in somewhat more formal language when they write (“we engaged in heated debate, ” rather than “we argued.”) so make sure your talk sounds as natural as if you were speaking at a dinner party.

Then I started to make presentations for my speeches and not only for presentations but for any public speech. During the earlier days, my afraid-of-speaking phase, I used to stuff the slides with as much material as I could so that I could read from the slides. But as mentioned in the article, nobody wants you to read what’s written on the slides. If you can read it, your audience can also read it. Follow the one basic rule - Keep it simple! In fact, the more people there are, the more direct your message should be, as the author has said in the article:

“I’ve come to realize that no matter how smart the people are you’re communicating to, the more of them there are, the dumber the collective gets,” Ryu told me. “And so you could have a room full of Einsteins, but if there are 200 or 300 of them, then you still have to talk to them like they’re just average people. As the audience gets bigger and bigger, your message has to get simpler and simpler, and the bullet-point list has to be shorter and shorter.”

Last but not the least, Connect with your audience!  This was quite hard for me, partly because of the reason that I took it as making jokes and telling the audience my personal stories. But then I realised that connecting with the audience meant making my talk/speech more relatable to the audience. It meant giving them some avenue to connect with what I was saying, to be a part of it - and I could do it by asking a rhetorical question, telling an anecdote(not necessarily mine) etc.

Read this article in full, if you are somewhere in the same situation, as I was in a few years back.  Let me know what you feel when you are just about to speak in front of 10+ people.

P.S: My idea of public speaking has also changed over the years. Earlier I used to ignore any good suggestion to improve public speaking thinking that it meant speaking in seminars/public gatherings but then I realised that it is an umbrella term used to represent speaking in front of multiple people.


Shubham Gupta
Co-founder, BBR